Aureole etc.

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Klement SLAVICKÝ (1910-1999)

Rhapsody for solo viola
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)

Three Madrigals for violin and viola (1947)
Zdeněk LUKÁŠ (b 1928)

Sonata per viola solo
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)

Lachrymae – reflections on a Song by Dowland (1950)
Sylvie BODOROVÁ (b 1954)

Gila Rome – Meditations for Solo Viola
Vittorio MONTI (1868-1922)

Jitka Hosprová (viola)
Veronika Jarůšková (violin)
Kateřina Englichová (harp)
Recorded in the Domovina Studio Prague November 2001
ARCO DIVA UP 0043-2 131 [65.29]

There is a great deal of young musical talent in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia (violinist Veronika Jarůšková is Slovakian) and Arco Diva is doing its bit to promote it. The unusually glamorous cover picture is augmented by Jitka Hosprová’s own thoughts on musical life as well as autobiographical details and reflections on the music compiled by note writer Petr Veber – the second paragraph indeed deals with the issue of Hosprová’s provocative presence. That she has also constructed a balanced and challenging programme is perhaps more to the point. Three of the six pieces are for solo viola and elsewhere she is joined by Jarůšková in the Martinů and by the harpist Kateřina Englichová for the arrangements of Britten and Monti.

Slavicky is still underrepresented outside his native land but his fairly recent death may present an opportunity for assessment. The Rhapsody is a short, three-movement work of some eleven minutes. Its opening is stark, quite abrasive and resinous but the central movement opens out in restrained lyricism, the solo viola flying in alt and occasionally undercut by the rude imposition of tough contrastive interjections. The movement’s title, Dialogo drammatico gives one an indication of its binary disjunction. In this way the internalised dialogue sees alternate lyrical and violent material ending with the viola’s resumption of playing in alt, having presumably won over the fractious disquiet of its other, divided self. Much simpler is the finale, full of virtuosic dash and something of an ear cleanser. Zdeněk Lukáš is, with Sylvie Bodorová, one of the members of the Quattro group of composers whom Arco Diva has done so much recently to promote. His four movement solo sonata is more companionable listening than Slavicky’s work. The Interludio is musing, elegiac with some folk influence emerging over its span whilst the bustly Moto perpetuo opens out for a brief but dazzling tune – some scary intonational difficulties here though late on in the movement. Bodorová’s Gila Rome – Meditations for Solo Viola is barely six minutes long and means Sing, Gypsy. She has made a study of Gypsy music and her own complex national and geographical origins doubtless have some significant bearing as well. Opening in a distant, inward mood with distinctive gypsy melody the second movement is a fast and dramatic embodiment of her marking Impetuoso and lasts a whisker over a minute. The finale has about it a kind of keening and an absolutely distinctive husky "speaking" quality that hints at some unspoken narrative significance beyond its immediate self. It’s appropriate in a bizarre sense I suppose that this complex appreciation and absorption of gypsy or Roma music should be followed by Monti’s generic Csárdás. What Bodorová constructs in so veiled a way Monti has made cod explicit but never mind, it makes for a link and provides an opportunity for a virtuosic encore.

I have yet to mention the Martinů and Britten. In the Madrigals she and Veronika Jarůšková make a good pairing, both tonally and expressively. They are receptive and perceptive interpreters and I liked the performance. Comparison with Jiři Novák and Milan Škampa (Supraphon 1985) in this repertoire is, I suppose, inevitable and readers will want to know how the younger pairing bear up. As I said, well, but it’s incontestable that they are just that fraction less incisive rhythmically and they vest the music with less musical dynamics and colour. Heard in isolation no one would be disappointed but if we are judging by the highest standards – and Novák and Škampa are the peaks in this kind of literature – the greater variety of tone production and character and atmosphere of the veterans wins out every time. The Britten is a harp-accompanied arrangement and Hosprová’s dexterity is not in doubt. I listened for comparative purposes to a favourite recording of mine made by her illustrious compatriot Josef Koďousek and pianist Květa Novotná back in ’79. Hosprová is brisker than Koďousek, more clear-eyed, virtuosic. In Kateřina Englichová she has a resourceful partner and together theirs is a valuable performance. What I miss is Koďousek’s eloquent and expressive preparation for – and unfolding of – the finally stated Dowland song and his half glints, colours, and sense of rubato. Hers is a robust, youthful performance full of affirmation, his more introspective and tinged with melancholy.

Jonathan Woolf

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